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Controversial Judge Removed from Steve Bannon's Fraud Case

 June 30, 2024

Judge Juan Merchan, initially expected to oversee Steve Bannon's criminal fraud trial in New York, has been reassigned due to a scheduling conflict.

The case, initially set to proceed under the auspices of the judge who oversaw former President Donald Trump's hush money case, will now be handled by Judge April Newbauer, with the trial set to commence on Sept. 23, as Newsweek reports.

Judge Merchan's Scheduling Conflict

The announcement was made by Ellen Biben, an administrative judge for New York County Supreme Court, Criminal Term.

Biben explained that Judge Merchan’s reassignment was necessary due to his commitment to the upcoming multi-defendant trial.

She wrote, "The Honorable Juan M. Merchan, Acting Supreme Court Justice, who is assigned to this matter, is engaged to preside over a six-defendant trial that is scheduled to commence on September 16, 2024, and expected to last at least three months."

Judge Merchan has been handling Bannon’s case since September 2022. His involvement in high-profile cases is notable, including overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal trial in May.

Impact of Trump's Trial

The trial involving former President Donald Trump resulted in a conviction on 34 counts related to falsifying business records involving hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. This case caused a delay in Bannon's trial, pushing it to September.

Due to the overlap with his current caseload, the decision was made to reassign Bannon’s case. Ellen Biben stated that transferring Bannon's case to Judge April Newbauer would "best serve the needs of the court."

Judge April Newbauer will now preside over Bannon’s trial, set to begin on Sept. 23. Steve Bannon is scheduled to appear before Judge Newbauer on July 23 for preliminary proceedings.

Bannon's Legal Challenges

Bannon faces significant legal challenges, including six charges in New York. These charges include money laundering, conspiracy, and scheming to defraud in connection with the "We Build the Wall" campaign.

The campaign, which claimed to raise funds for constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, was scrutinized for allegedly diverting over $1 million. Bannon, along with Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea, faced federal charges in August 2020.

Kolfage, Badolato, and Shea have since been convicted and sentenced to prison. Donald Trump pardoned Bannon in January 2021 for the federal charges. However, the pardon does not apply to state offenses, leading to Bannon's indictment in New York in September 2022.

Upcoming Court Appearance

Steve Bannon has pleaded not guilty to all state charges. His next court appearance is scheduled for July 23, where he will appear before Judge Newbauer.

In a separate case, Bannon has been ordered to report to prison on Monday for defying a congressional subpoena. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, he will begin serving his sentence.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently rejected Bannon's bid to delay his prison term. This decision solidified the immediate execution of his sentence.

Conclusion

In summary, Judge Juan Merchan's scheduling conflict has led to the reassignment of Steve Bannon's criminal fraud trial to Judge April Newbauer. Merchan's commitment to a lengthy multi-defendant trial starting on Sept. 16 necessitated the change.

The trial, involving significant charges related to the "We Build the Wall" campaign, will proceed under Newbauer's oversight, beginning on September 23, 2024.

Bannon, who faces multiple legal challenges, will make a preliminary court appearance on July 23 and must report to prison on July 1 in an unrelated case.